|Many people say there are three kinds of delicious meals in the world. Everyone includes Chinese and French food, the only argument being over which is the third. Some favor Italian meals, some suggest Turkish, while others vote for Thai cooking. Although opinions differ widely, people have a consensus that diet tends to reflect different ethnic habits, cultures and even ways of thinking.
|During a dinner party in a restaurant in Beijing several years ago, dishes were served very slowly. About 20 people, including some international experts, attended the party, which was held by my department to celebrate New Year’s Day.
|The banquet had been going on for about one hour but only half of the dishes had been served by then. This particular half had already included seven to eight dishes.
|An American lady who sat next to me was visiting China for the first time. She thought the party might be coming to an end since so many dishes had been served already. I told her this was not so. She asked me, “Do you Chinese often treat guests with so many dishes?” I said, “In China, we usually order many more than 10 dishes for our guests for such kind of party.”
|The American lady was very surprised. “There are so many delicious foods served for a department party. No wonder Chinese cuisine is so famous.”
|But after a while, she asked me another question. “There is a strange phenomenon. You Chinese eat so many delicious foods, but why are you so thin? By contrast, we Americans eat less than you Chinese do, so why are we fatter and stronger than you Chinese?”
|I was tongue-tied at that time, not sure how to answer. What she said, after all, was reasonable. Most of my Chinese colleagues at the table that day were thin and weak looking, while all the Americans there looked so strong and healthy.
|One of my colleagues explained to her that China is a hospitable nation. “When treating guests, we usually prepare or order a full table of dishes. Only in this way can we feel that our guests are not being neglected,” she said.
|Personally I think Chinese pay particular attention to the preparation of meals so they have a very exquisite balance of color and flavor in various dishes to complement reach other; meanwhile, Westerners pay closer attention to the aspects of nutrition and health protection. This is the main difference between Chinese and Westerners in their concepts of diet. It also somewhat reflects the difference between Chinese and Westerners in terms of overall diet culture.
|Chinese food is also different from Western food in the ways we prepare it before cooking and our ways of eating it. Chinese cut the original ingredients into bite sizes, then stir fry, fry or steam them for a short time. They eat the food with chopsticks without any real need for further cutting. Westerners tend to cook ingredients in bigger pieces and then leave the individual to cut the food on their plates with knives and forks.
（China.org.cn 李京荣 译）